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Arts , Photography History & Theory

Unreal Estate : The Eastern Shore
Description In "Unreal Estate", the photographs of Robert de Gast reveal what "isn't so simple" about the abandoned buildings so common on the Chesapeake's Eastern Shore. His colour photographs of ghostly houses and weathered details illustrate the powerful hold architecture has on us, even when a building no longer serves its purpose. Like more ancient ruins, the abandoned structures of the Shore tell stories of decline and departure. Some appear proud and sturdy, even beautiful, seen across a wide marsh or meadow. Others are tortured abstractions - one Cobb Island house twists almost comically to one side, a sitigle timber postponing its collapse. In his introduction, de Gast tells of structures abandoned as a result of both a shrinking population and difficult circumstances. The Depression of the 1930s began the decline. During World War 11 many residents left for Norfolk, Baltimore, and other cities to find work. Postwar mechanization led to larger farms - and the need for fewer labourers. Today, the Eastern Shore counties of Accomack and Northampton are among the poorest in Virginia. But de Gast finds a different kind of wealth in the region. He is drawn to places named Mutton Hunk and Frogstool, Clam and Oyster, Chincoteague and Kiptopeke. His photographs are not of people, but they are full of human feeling. They evoke mystery and romance, compassion and nostalgia. They show houses where children shouted and played, and shops where old friends gossiped; where people lived and dreamed - and left behind familiar shapes that time and nature now alter and reclaim. Born in the Netherlands but now a full-time resident of Virginia's Eastern Shore, Robert de Gast is a photographer and writer with a lifelong interest in architecture and landscape. He has restored several abandoned houses and spends as much time as he can sailing the waters around the Shore. His previous books include "The Oystermen of the Chesapeake", "Western Wind, Eastern Shore", and "The Lighthouses of the Chesapeake", also available from Johns Hopkins.
  • Gast, Robert De
  • Johns Hopkins University Press
  • 1993
  • 96
  • Paperback
  • 9780801845918
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